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Articles Posted in Juveniles

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Three Clay County sheriff’s deputies are facing discipline after a high school student spent more than a month in jail charged as an adult in a sexual battery case all because he had the same name as the accused.

After a girl under the age of 12 told police she had sex with a Clay High student in the fall of 2012, investigators arrested a 17-year-old boy and booked him into the Clay County jail.

However, following a review of reports from the Green Cove Springs Police Department detailing the mother of the alleged victim having a verbal altercation with a boy that had the same name, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office began an internal investigation that revealed they had arrested the wrong teen.

cuffsThe mistake was not uncovered until 35 days later when the teen received court documents detailing the charges against him.

According to reports, three Clay County deputies received formal counseling for the wrongful arrest and one deputy faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and a transfer from investigations to patrol.

Authorities claim that the Clay County deputies failed to confirm the suspect’s identity with a photo lineup.

Sadly, because of this error an innocent teen was arrested for a criminal offense that he did not commit.

A disciplinary hearing was being held for the deputies on Tuesday morning. The results have yet to be released.

Being investigated for a criminal offense or getting arrested in Clay County is not a fun or pleasant experience. The hours and days leading up to an arrest and those immediately following an arrest are highly important when it comes to protecting your legal rights. In most criminal cases, once an investigation has begun or an arrest has been made, there is no time to spare. A criminal defense attorney should be retained immediately to make sure police and prosecutors play by the rules. With that said, all criminal defendants have a right to legal counsel throughout the investigation process as well as during all criminal proceedings.

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Broward County Public Schools, one of the nation’s largest school districts, has reached an agreement with law enforcement agencies and the NAACP to reduce the number of students arrested and charged with minor criminal offenses.

The agreement brings district officials together with police and the state attorney’s office to create an alternative to the zero-tolerance policies that are customary in many schools. It places principals, rather than school resource officers, in charge of deciding how to deal with students that misbehave.

The agreement is designed to cut down on what has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” where students accused of minor offenses, like disrupting class or loitering, are suspended, arrested and charged with crimes.

Broward County is the nation’s seventh largest district and had the highest number of school-related arrests in Florida in the 2011-2012 school year, according to state data. Of the 1,062 arrests made, 71 percent were for misdemeanor offenses.

In Broward County, minority students have been excessively arrested, sometimes for the same offenses that their white peers received only a warning for. According to U.S. Department of Education data, more than 70 percent of students nationwide involved in school-related arrests or law enforcement referrals are black or Hispanic.

students betch.jpgThe new policy creates a different set of guidelines for district officials and school resource officers to follow when a student misbehaves. For non-violent misdemeanors like trespassing, harassment, incidents related to alcohol, possession of a misdemeanor amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, administrators have been instructed to attempt to resolve the issues through other methods than just arresting the student. A slew of options, like participation in a week-long counseling program, are thought of as much better ways to address and correct the student’s behavior.

Additionally, the new policy states that no student would be arrested for a first non-violent misdemeanor. However, further offenses can result in graduated levels of school-based interventions. After a fifth incident, students will be referred to law enforcement.
Felonies or serious threats will immediately be referred to police.

The policy went into effect at the beginning of the current school year. Broward County has already seen a 41 percent decline in the number of school-related arrests since the policy took effect.

The NAACP hopes the policy will serve as a model for other districts nationwide.

If your son or daughter, niece or nephew or grandchild has been charged with a crime in Broward County, you may be wondering whether you should hire an attorney. For most juvenile crimes, it is in your child’s best interests to have a criminal defense lawyer in their corner to make sure their rights are protected. The consequences for a juvenile crime can be quite harsh, potentially leaving a permanent stain on a child’s criminal record and even affecting future employment or educational opportunities. Depending on the age of your child, he or she could be charged as an adult for certain crimes.

The most common juvenile offenses include the following:

Juvenile Drug Crimes

• Underage DUI
• Juvenile Theft Crimes
• Juvenile Sex Crimes
• Juvenile Violent Offenses
• Juvenile Alcohol Crimes

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875413_balance.jpgJacksonville, Florida – A 13-year-old boy, accused of killing his 2-year-old brother and sexually abusing his 5-year-old half-brother, has been charged as an adult, making him the youngest inmate awaiting trial in Duval County.

The boy is facing a first-degree murder charge in the 2011 beating death of his younger brother, and if convicted he could face a life sentence.

The boy being charged as an adult has received mixed reviews among the public.

Those that support the decision believe that if the boy is convicted, he should be held accountable to the full extent of the law. Still, others believe the boy should be given a second chance at life and needs help as opposed to life behind bars.

In most other states, children accused of violent criminal acts are usually tried in juvenile court. Last year, a Colorado boy received seven years in a juvenile facility and three years parole after being convicted of killing his two parents when he was 12. A boy in Pennsylvania accused of killing his father’s pregnant fiancée and her unborn child this year when he was 11, was recently sent to a juvenile facility where he could remain until his 21st birthday.

If this case gets as far as trial, the judge will have to determine whether to consider the boy’s past when deciding his future.

The 13-year-old was born to his 12-year-old mother in 1999 in Miami, Florida. His 25-year-old father received 10 years’ probation for sexually assaulting his mother.

Both mother and son went to foster care two years later after authorities in south Florida discovered the child wandering the street at 4 a.m., naked and covered in filth, near the motel where his grandmother apparently used drugs.

When the boy was 8, the Department of Children and Families was notified that he was possibly sexually molested by an older cousin. Other incidents involving the boy were also reported, including claims that the boy simulated sex with classmates, masturbated at school and allegedly killed a kitten.

In October 2010, the boy and his mother were living in Hialeah with his mother’s new husband. The school he was attending claims the boy suffered an eye injury that was so bad he was sent to the hospital to be examined for retinal damage. The boy told officials his stepfather punched him. Before officers could investigate, the man was found at the family’s apartment dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The family then moved to Jacksonville where the boy was enrolled in middle school and apparently received straight A’s.

A few months later, police were called to the family’s apartment because the boy’s baby brother had died at a local hospital from a fractured skull, bruising to his left eye and a bleeding brain.

The boy’s mother, then 25, apparently told police that on March 14, 2011 she had left her children at home alone. Police claim when she arrived at home later, she found her 2-year-old child unconscious but waited 8 hours before taking him to the hospital.
Police allege that she texted friends and searched “unconsciousness” online during those hours.

She apparently told police that two weeks before the toddler was killed her older son broke the child’s legs while wrestling.

The medical examiner said the child may have survived if the mother had taken him to the hospital earlier.

The mother pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter in March. She could receive 30 years.

The 13-year-old boy was originally questioned by police as a witness, but was soon charged with first-degree murder. He was charged with a second felony after his 5-year-old half-brother told a psychiatrist that he had sexually assaulted him.

The boy has apparently talked openly to investigators and therapists regarding his life and the events leading up to his brother’s death. Prosecutors claim the boy poses a significant risk of violence, which is why he is being detained pre-trial and has been charged with two first-degree felonies.

In August, a judge ruled that police interrogations in the murder and sexual assault cases are inadmissible as the boy could not have possibly given consent to waive his rights to remain silent and consult an attorney.

Prosecutors are appealing this decision.

According to the Justice Department, 29 children throughout the U.S. under the age of 14 committed homicides in 2010. The complexity of this case could change how Florida courts handle first-degree murder charges involving juvenile defendants throughout the state. This summer, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for juvenile offenders to receive life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Juveniles accused of committing felony crimes are placed in a tough position. A juvenile 14 years of age or older face mandatory filing of adult charges when facing certain felony charges, including:

Murder

• Armed Robbery
• Rape
• Carjacking
Additionally, a child 14 years of age or older can be tried as an adult if they are facing additional crimes of violence against others or have previously committed a felony offense involving the use of a firearm. For children under the age of 14, the State Attorney gets to decide whether or not to try the juvenile as an adult.

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Two 16-year-olds and a 15-year-old were charged with aggravated stalking with a hate crime enhancement Friday after police were called to investigate a reported incident at a school bus stop in Palm Bay, Florida.

The trio is accused of repeatedly attacking and bullying an autistic teen while using racial slurs.

Police reports indicate the autistic teen attempted to run away from the teens and was almost struck by a motorcycle and a pickup truck.

As the teen sat on the school bus, he was allegedly struck in the face repeatedly.

Police claim a video of the alleged incident was posted on Facebook, which caused the teen to be admitted to a medical facility for an evaluation.

The three teens were arrested and taken to the Juvenile Detention Center in Sharpes.

The teens will make their first appearance in front of a Juvenile Court judge within 21 days for a hearing on the charges.

The State Attorney’s Office will later decide whether to pursue the hate crime charge and whether to prosecute the teens as adults.

It will be interesting to see if the prosecution chooses to pursue the enhanced hate crime charge and if the teens will be tried in adult court. Studies show that trying minors as adults does not actually rehabilitate teens; rather, it makes them more vulnerable to reoffend upon being released back into society. As former State Juvenile Prosecutors, the Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton understand the importance of keeping children from being charged as adults. We will vigorously fight to keep your child out of adult court or make sure that the full range of legal defenses are presented to your child.

A hate crime can be charged anytime a person or group is targeted due to their religion, race, ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, political association, sexual orientation or disability. Contrary to popular belief, hate crimes do not have to involve physical violence to be charged as such. In fact, the mere threat of violence can bring about charges. Hate crimes are considered felony offenses punishable by imprisonment, probation, restitution to the victim, mandatory counseling and large fines. The death penalty can be imposed in serious hate crimes cases, typically those involving murder.

Hate crimes accusations are not taken lightly by law enforcement or prosecutors. The State has no tolerance for individuals who commit acts of hate against others and endanger innocent lives. Even if you never inflicted any harm on another, you will still be aggressively prosecuted. For these reasons alone, it is imperative to contact a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible to guide you through the criminal process.

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A 17-year-old expelled Tampa student was arrested after police allegedly found the boy in possession of bomb-making materials and a diary with step by step instructions detailing how to carry out a bomb plot supposedly planned for the first day of classes.

The boy was arrested and charged with threatening to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device.

Police allegedly received a tip about the boy’s supposed plot on the morning of Aug. 16.

Authorities searched the boy’s home and apparently found shrapnel, plastic tubing and timing and fusing devices. A diary was captured by police that allegedly included targeted administrators, drawings of the high school and statements about killing.

According to the Tampa Police Department’s Regional Bomb Team, the amount of materials found in the boy’s home had the potential to have multiple casualties.

Police believe the boy was acting alone.

The boy could face additional charges of possession of bomb-making materials as well as cultivation of marijuana after police supposedly uncovered plants, drug paraphernalia and marijuana in the boy’s room.

According to TBO.com, the boy was recently arrested for burglary with a stolen firearm.

The juvenile was expelled from the high school in Spring 2010 for an unknown off-campus incident. The youth was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center. It is not yet known whether or not the State Attorney’s Office will charge him as an adult.

With such serious alleged claims found in the young man’s diary, it will be interesting to see what route the prosecution decides to take. Given the boy’s age in combination with the seriousness of the allegations, he appears to have a high chance of being subject to adult court.

After a petition is filed, a judge must decide whether a minor is tried under the juvenile court system or pushed through to the adult criminal justice system. There are many aspects a judge considers before making the decision to transfer a juvenile to adult court, including the youth’s previous criminal record, whether the alleged offense was violent or carried out with intent, the seriousness of the crime in combination with the community’s safety, whether or not any victims were physically injured, the maturity of the juvenile and finally, if the juvenile would be better rehabilitated through the juvenile system or through the resources available in adult court. The juvenile justice system’s main focus is on rehabilitating a minor accused of a criminal offense and is partly based on the adult criminal justice system. The adult court system is intended simply to seek justice for the victim and punish the offender.

In serious cases, such as crimes of violence where a weapon was used, prosecutors will most likely attempt to waive up a youthful offender to adult court which will expose the minor to adult treatment and penalties. In Florida, a person that threatens to throw, project, place or discharge a destructive device, such as a bomb will be charged with a second-degree felony. The punishment for a felony of this caliber could result in up to 15 years in prison.

It is important to remember that a juvenile offender has the same rights as an adult accused of a crime. The right to remain silent, the right to legal counsel and the right to cross-examine witnesses are included in these legal rights. The educated Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can best direct you on how to fight for your child to remain in the juvenile court system.

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A 16-year-old Sarasota, Florida teen was taken into custody on Sunday, April 17, 2011 for his involvement in the shooting of two British tourists on holiday from England. He was jailed and charged with two counts of murder.

According to BayNews9, the tourists, aged 24 and 25, were killed Saturday morning at The Courts public housing project in the 1700 block of Carver Court in Sarasota, FL. Officials have not determined why the tourists were at the location, which is in an area of town police known to be problematic.

Detectives said the tourists were staying at a hotel on Longboat Key, around 12 miles from where they were shot. The shooting happened just before 3 a.m.

The 16-year-old male arrested for the crime lives in the neighborhood the shooting took place and has a previous record. A few weeks ago he was arrested for aggravated assault with a handgun.

Officials believe that others were involved and are continuing their investigation. Prosecutors will decide of the boy will be tried as a juvenile or an adult.

The state of Florida’s approach to juvenile crime differs in its approach to adult crimes. The ambition for the juvenile court system is not as much to punish but to rehabilitate the juvenile. Criminals sentenced as juveniles can be placed under house arrest or in a juvenile detention center. This is not the same as prison, but more of a passing short-term detention where the juvenile can be given direction, education and mental health or substance abuse services from certified juvenile crime specialists.

For murder offenses, Florida courts have the diplomacy to sentence juveniles to life without parole. When the court believes an offense is too serious for fleeting confinement, the child is sentenced as an adult and sent to a prison with other adult inhabitants. The judge typically has to give a reason for transferring the juvenile to an adult court to be tried as an adult, but not always. As a courtesy, the court sometimes holds the juvenile in the detention center until he receives a sentence as an adult. The court may also impose holding the child until reaching a certain age, usually 19, for transfer to the adult facility.

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A 17-year-old male was arrested Wednesday by Pasco County police for involuntary sexual battery on a teenage girl. The alleged rape occurred at Fivay High School in Hudson, Florida.

The girl told police that the teenage male sent her a text in November to meet him near a boy’s restroom in the high school. The girl said the male pulled her into a boy’s bathroom stall and raped her.

According to BayNews9, the teenager denied any sexual contact with the girl and provided saliva samples for DNA testing to investigators. Testing revealed that his DNA was on the pants the girl was wearing the day of the alleged rape.

The teenager later told police that he lied about not having sexual relations with the girl, but said he did not have sex with her in the alleged time or place of the reported incident.

The teen’s name has not been released as he is not being tried as an adult.

Florida has very strict penalties for teens convicted of sex offenses. Many times sexual offenses allegedly committed by a juvenile are denied bond because of the serious nature the juvenile court system upholds. Juvenile cases are handled quite differently than adult criminal cases; the biggest difference being that juveniles are not given due process. Juvenile cases are heard by a judge who determines the punishments without a jury.

The laws in Florida regarding sex crimes vary by the degree of the crime committed. Penalties for a misdemeanor sex crime could entail jail time of less than a year or probation, a fine, and community service. Penalties for a felony offense, such as sexual battery, can include a lengthy prison term and lifetime registration as a sex offender. The most serious penalty for committing a sex crime as a juvenile is the possibility of registering as a sex offender for life. Any Juvenile 14 years of age or older found guilty of committing, attempting, soliciting or conspiring to commit sexual battery, lewd and lascivious battery and lewd and lascivious molestation are required to register within the Florida database.

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